Some years ago, I started blogging. It was de rigueur at the time…and I liked it. I’m not sure if I was narcissistically looking for approval of my writing efforts, or perhaps I was seeking that ubiquitous “community” that everyone seems to be seeking. I joined up with some blogging groups, not knowing what would happen.
And I found a community. But it wasn’t mine.
Blogging introduced me to a pretty powerful group of women…mommy bloggers. Dozens of them. Smart, sassy, gorgeous (mostly) Southern women who always claimed they were losing their minds, but to me, seem ridiculously put together. They have kids, jobs, husbands, houses, white SUVs, great hair, perfect jewelry, platform shoes, a relationship with black eyeliner that I don’t understand, and a knack for writing about their lives in laugh-out-loud ways.
I love these women. I salute them. I am in awe of them. But I can’t really, on a deep spiritual level, relate to them. Me with my fur-kid shelter dog, my decorated-just-to-my specifications apartment, my schedule that only I control, my sensible city walking shoes, my Saturday morning sleep-ins, my Netflix binge-watches…I can’t tap in to the stresses of raising humans, living with men with whom you’ve signed paperwork, or buying a five-pound bag of anything at the grocery store.
So, when a friend asked me to serve on a street team for Lela Davidson’s new book, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, I was dubious. After all, I have nothing to offer in the ongoing lean in/max out debate for working moms, because I’m a non-mom. There isn’t even a category for me other than Spinster, which I’m toying with adopting, or the vaguely porn-sounding PANK (Professional Aunt No Kids), but both of those imply that I am most decidedly not a mom. When I start to complain about how busy I am, I often have to stop myself because, well, I don’t have a family to worry about, and though worrying about who will look after me in my dotage is a thorny question, it doesn’t compare at all to worrying about how teenage girls will survive middle school in the 21st century. I simply cannot 100% relate to you, my mommy friends. I can try, but as all of your blogs and books have made clear to me over the years…I really have no idea.
But, considering that I just finished reading a series of post-apocalyptic teen fiction adventures, I figured that “relate-ability” isn’t a criteria for not reading a book. And Lela always makes me laugh, and I can genuinely say I knew her (casually) when I lived in AR, and so, I pre-ordered my copy on Amazon (how cool is it that I know someone who has a book on Amazon?) and dove in.
A few weeks later, having just finished the book, I have to say that I’m glad I did. Oh, I admit, I kind of glossed over the breast-feeding/pumping sections, because, well, really, some things I don’t want to relate to. The trials of owning huge houses in Texas or Arkansas have so far eluded me. Nor did I ever work in “Corporate America” or a cowboy boot startup. I don’t make spreadsheets for household chores, and I never had a body that could even consider wearing a bikini, let alone “rocking it”, as Lela discusses in one of her more moving essays.
But what I can relate to is that being what we are “supposed” to be, as women, is hard. There’s no manual. Even if you do fit in to the conventional definition of successful modern working mom, that definition shifts every day. We women all fake a certain kind of balance. We must be feminine, but stand up for ourselves. We must be confident but not bossy. We must be tough at work (no crying!) but also tap in to our motherly instincts to nurture and guide our teams. We must look good, but not look like we tried (for the record, I have the 2nd part of this one down pat). Even I, living my luxurious single city life, have taken to stuffing my work bag with magazines and articles, so I can read them while commuting. I feel a disproportionate pride that I manage to get up and walk the dog every morning; when I manage to put on mascara, well, watch out, world. I’m unstoppable.
What strikes me about reading a book like this is how foolish my worries about “not relating” are. After all, who really cares if I’m not a mom? I can relate to the struggle not to let emotions leak out through my tear ducts at work. At being the Dog Park Villain. At continually looking for the proper mix of home, work, and fun that make it all feel like I’m doing it right. Maybe not so much with the oiling of nipples in preparation for breast-feeding, but I can definitely empathize with how scary and wonderful and awful and remarkable it must be to try to raise kids. Sure, I still harbor this strange premonition that I will, someday, be hit by a distracted mom in a white SUV in a parking lot, but I feel ya, moms. It ain’t easy to be a lady living in this big bold world. I suspect it’s not easy to be a dude, either, but that’s a topic for another book, another time.
So if you are a mom, you want to be mom, you loved your mom, or you just feel like getting sympatico with Lela’s particular brand of mom (and who wouldn’t, they seem to have great hair), I recommend Faking Balance. It’s a breezy, funny read. It’s perfect for that last Labor Day weekend reading session…assuming you can find time between cookouts, school shopping, the first week of homework, after-school activities, getting one of your final few mani-pedis of the summer, tracking down an elusive Pumpkin Spice Latte, and watching the first college football game of the year.
And if you can’t find time to read the book, buy it anyway and leave it on a table somewhere so people think you’re the type who has time to read funny books. You’ll get major #fakingbalance points for that.